News & Events
Moritz at the Vanguard of Leadership Education for Lawyers
"Lawyers as Leaders" course taught by Professor Garry W. Jenkins
March 9, 2007
This fall, The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law will award up to 75 full or partial three-year scholarships to high achieving candidates who demonstrate strong leadership potential. Among the curricular opportunities these and other Moritz students may take to prepare for future leadership roles is the College's unique "Lawyers as Leaders" course taught by Professor Garry W. Jenkins.
Professor Garry W. Jenkins' experience is similar to a myriad of lawyers who are called upon to be leaders. He was lucky that his credentials - a cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School, where he served as editor-in-chief of the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review, and a master's degree in public policy from Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government - put him ahead of the curve in meeting the leadership challenges of COO and general counsel responsibilities at the Goldman Sachs Foundation, a $200 million international corporate foundation, within four years of graduation.
"At Goldman Sachs, I was hired because of my law degree, but I was spending 75 percent of my time leading people and projects," he says. When he moved to academia, he wanted to develop a course that would provide law students the tools to excel in similar circumstances. His unique "Lawyers as Leaders" course is giving Moritz students an important advantage in understanding and succeeding in leadership positions.
Professor Jenkins acknowledges why law graduates are frequently called upon to lead. "They bring strong analytical skills, a mental discipline to weigh competing viewpoints, a tendency to discuss conflict without personal attacks, strong communication abilities, and, increasingly, superior skills in problem-solving and negotiation."
Lawyers as a group, however, are no more likely than non-lawyers to be prepared in other aspects of leadership - for example, leadership in times of crisis, leading change, consensus building, and mobilizing groups and organizations to address complex issues. These are among the issues addressed in the innovative course that are, paradoxically, absent in most law schools' curricula.
"Today's leaders need to understand how to empower people, diagnose situations, and align people in the same strategic direction, and that requires more than merely charisma, but rather an understanding of persuasion, incentives, vision, and communication," says Professor Jenkins.
Borrowing from the business school model, Professor Jenkins combines theory, case study, simulation, and role playing to introduce frameworks and diagnostic tools in the course. All of the case studies in the course feature protagonists who are lawyers by training.
"I want students to understand the hallmarks of skillful leadership so they can develop those skills and think more critically, but I also want students to see the broad range of career choices they have with their law degree," he says.
Students then choose a lawyer-leader and write their own case study. When Jill Meinhardt '07 expressed an interest in educational policy and design, Professor Jenkins helped her identify Beth Lief, founder and CEO of New Visions for Public Schools. Meinhardt feels fortunate to have made contact with Lief, who remains one of her role models. The course also focuses on the cultivation and recruitment of mentors once students enter the profession.
"Students frequently come to the class with a 'heroic model' of leadership," Professor Jenkins says. "They think the leader is going to do all the work. Leadership comes in a variety of different forms. It needs to be unpacked from authority or title. Ultimately, leadership consists of creating conditions that allow people to do their best on behalf of the organization."
He is pleased at how insightful Moritz students are and enjoys watching them grow in sophistication and savvy. Genevieve Reiner '07 was a quick study.
"One of the most poignant lessons I learned was that some of the most effective leaders are those people that perform their job with an understated humility coupled with a strong professional will," says Reiner. "In a profession full of big personalities and intense competition, I found the humility of some leaders to be a refreshing and welcome inspiration."
"The capstone class over one weekend," Meinhardt says, "helped students identify their individual strengths as leaders and learn how to intentionally design leadership strategies in line with those strengths."
"I hope that students will become more conscious about their choices and behaviors. The ability to manage strategic relationships and think through human behavior problems can make or break an entire career," says Professor Jenkins. "So, if the course makes students a mere five percent more effective than their peers, the annual compounding effect of that difference can significantly alter a career trajectory."
As a result of taking the class, Shad Neiss '07 reconsidered what he expected from his career and decided to start his own practice. He is optimistic about his future and says, "I would recommend this class to anyone interested in examining the concept of leadership and exploring whether they are realizing their full leadership potential."
Just as Professor Jenkins and the "Lawyers as Leaders" course are ahead of the curve, so is Moritz.
"Only two or three law schools, including Harvard, are offering leadership education as part of the curriculum," says Professor Jenkins.
Dean Nancy Rogers wants to remain at the vanguard. "A number of our alumni - including Jack Creighton '57, who served as CEO of Weyerhauser and United Air Lines, and those who preside over law firms or lead other operations - have suggested that our graduates would have an edge in leadership opportunities if they were prepared in advance. In addition, they might be more effective in the volunteer leadership roles that lawyers so often assume. That preparation is now an option for our students, thanks to Professor Jenkins' innovation and generous support from Jack Creighton, the Estabrook Foundation, and a number of our alumni."